LONDON, United Kingdom — It’s a well known fact that London's fashion ecosystem, with its top tier design schools and numerous support schemes, has helped launch the careers of internationally recognised young fashion designers. But apart from designers, London is also a hub for a wide and vibrant community of stylists, photographers, hair and makeup artists, set designers, art directors and other fashion creatives, many of whom are clustered in the city’s East End, known for its warehouse spaces and colourful nightlife.
Over the last few weeks, BoF spoke with several of these fast-rising young talents, poised to assume their rightful position among the global fashion industry's top creatives of tomorrow. Dedicated, talented and hugely passionate about their respective crafts, say hello to ten of London's top young fashion creatives.
Anna Trevelyan, Stylist, Clapton
As a kid growing up in the British Midlands, Anna Trevelyan would make her own clothes, dye her hair and customise every piece of clothing she could get her hands on. Still, she had no idea what ‘styling’ was, let alone that it could be a career, until, while at university, she came across a course called ‘fashion styling and photography.’ “It seemed like a good fit,” the fast-rising stylist recalls. But, in fact, Trevelyan had found her calling.
Anna’s big break came when, after moving to London, Nicola Formichetti noticed her outré personal style on Myspace — “I was a bit of a clubkid,” she confesses — and decided to cast her in a Uniqlo campaign. Trevelyan ended up assisting Lady Gaga’s famous stylist for over three years, a period during which she worked closely with the monster-famed popstar. “Working with Gaga was massive training. She works incredibly hard, non-stop, and you have to keep up with that. But after doing that, everything is achievable.”
Indeed, after signing up with the agency CLM, Trevelyan started to work on her own projects and has been very busy ever since, building a reputation for her brash, colourful work. Trevelyan says she can be inspired by anything “from evil goth to pink fairy,” but the common thread that runs though her work are a no-holds-barred attitude and a penchant for bold experimentation. In addition to styling editorial, music videos, fashion films, runway shows, advertising campaigns and look-books, the unstoppable 27-year-old consults with fashion and beauty brands and is the fashion director and buyer for Machine A, a Soho boutique that champions young independent designers.
Her clients and collaborators include everyone, from V and the Sunday Times Style magazine to Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio, MAC cosmetics and photographer Ellen von Unwerth, for whom she has styled Marc Jacobs and Naomi Campbell for the weekly German news magazine Stern and produced high-concept spreads for fetish magazine Sang Bleu. With so much going on, Trevelyan barely has time to breathe, but the restless 27-year-old is already thinking of her next moves: “I want to move to New York, I can’t stay in one place for very long.”
Thomas Lohr, Photographer, Victoria Park
In 2005, two weeks after graduating from a Berlin art school, photographer Thomas Lohr packed his bags for New York, where he quickly became part of Brooklyn’s thriving creative scene and started developing a distinct visual voice. But things didn’t really take off for Lohr until he arrived in London, two and a half years ago. “People give you a chance here,” the 33-year-old says of the British capital. And, indeed, within a couple of weeks of moving to the city, the Bavaria-born soccer enthusiast was shooting for i-D.
In a short period of time, Lohr has made a name for himself, thanks to his idiosyncratic fashion editorials and portraits. Often inspired by his love of modern dance and architecture — passions reflected in his fashion stories’ pristine locations and artful compositions — Lohr’s aesthetic universe blends a 1990s-inflected minimalism with a psychologically fraught, withholding attitude that is unequivocally contemporary.
The rising lensman’s clean, modern style has also made him somewhat of a go-to portrait photographer for some of the industry’s most influential figures. Indeed, he has shot everyone from Christopher Kane and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez to insider editors Joerg Koch, Thomas Persson and BoF’s very own Imran Amed.
Recently, Lohr shot the lookbook for Raf Simons’ Pre-Fall 2013 collection for Dior. His work has also featured prominently in the last three issues of influential magazine Fantastic Man. With a strong portfolio and a reputation for being faultlessly charming, we are sure we will be seeing a lot more of Lohr’s intriguing images in months and years to come.
Rhea Thierstein, Set Designer, Finsbury Park
While still an assistant to Shona Heath, one of the pioneers of fashion set design, Rhea Thierstein made a series of comical hats for photographer Tim Walker’s ‘Monty Python’ story for Vanity Fair, a job which inspired the budding creative to strike out on her own.
She has since become one of Walker’s most trusted collaborators, crafting the whimsical, fairytale-like sets and props that often inhabit his photographs. Her work has also appeared in British Vogue, McDonald’s commercials and advertising campaigns for fashion brands like Stella McCartney.
Although she studied photography at Bournemouth University and interned at Nick Knight's SHOWStudio, Thierstein admits that she “never felt quite comfortable” with the practice and yearned for a sense of satisfication she immediately found with set design. Three years on, she has two full-time assistants and her own East London workspace, crammed with props and costumes, including artfully battered dollhouses, fuzzy moth wings dipped in coffee and spiders with lampshade bodies, to name but a few.
“We keep it as lo-fi as possible because there’s a charm to it,” she explains of her nature-inspired, surrealist aesthetic. “And the girls [on my team] are really good, maybe I could invest in them and have a studio.” Watch this space.
Matthew Holroyd, Art Director, Clapton
If we see vaguely erotic motifs on t-shirts at Selfridges next month, it will be, in part, thanks to Matthew Holroyd. Ever since 2006, when the art director from Middlesex launched his self-published alternative fashion magazine Vague Paper, Holroyd’s star has been on the ascent. “I wanted to do a publication where I worked with artists to produce stories that were critical about fashion and art. Fashion is generally just about trends.” The angle resonated — Opening Ceremony’s blog called Vague 'Vogue's evil twin' — and the independent publication became an overnight sensation, giving Holroyd a platform for his fresh visual ideas, as well as international attention: in 2012, New York’s Museum of Modern Art featured Vague in a show about new, directional magazines.
Vague’s success prompted East London boutique Hostem to recruit Holroyd as editor-in-chief of their new publication, which, each issue, takes a different male name as its title (the first two have been Sebastian and Hector). Again, Holroyd’s fresh eye caught the attention of unlikely observers at home and abroad, including The Huffington Post and the British Journal of Photography.
Holroyd’s latest magazine project is Baron, a small-format paperback erotic magazine named after his business partner Jonathan Baron. Needless to say, Baron, which is stocked at Marc Jacobs boutiques and Colette and is more artsy than pornographic, didn’t stay under-the-radar for very long. This season, the East London publishers were asked to do a line of t-shirts and sweatshirts, featuring imagery from their novel journal.
Holroyd has also done lookbooks for Harvey Nichols and art direction for Suede’s new album. But Holroyd’s heart, and future, lies in his editorial work, and he has few doubts about what his dream job would be: “I would love to do Playboy.”
Ellie Grace Cumming, Stylist, Hackney
After graduating from the London College of Fashion, stylist Ellie Grace Cumming began assisting some of the very fashion editors whose work she had admired since she was a teenager, including Katy England and Alister Mackie. Now, as fashion editor at AnOther Man and contributing editor to Dazed & Confused, Cumming lends her gothic-influenced sensibility to some of the industry’s most prominent imagemakers and brands.
For the Spring 2013 issue of AnOther Man, Cumming and photographer Paulina Otylie Surys shot pieces from Meadham Kirchhoff’s Spring 2013 collection for a dark story, featuring models sprawled about a debauched, rubble-infested setting.
But although she is most known for her moody, black-and-white, romantic aesthetic, Cumming is extremely versatile, having styled campaigns for MaxFactor and Swarovski, as well as reality queen Kim Kardashian for a V magazine shoot with Nick Knight.
“Ellie has great integrity and passion for what she does, something that people cannot help but respond to,” longtime mentor Alister Mackie told BoF.
“There is really no half-hearted way to work in fashion,” said Cumming. “It’s not something in which you get discovered in six months either — the people that I respect have been working in the industry for 20 years at least.”
Billal Taright, Art Director & Photographer, Holland Park
Art director and imagemaker Billal Taright had always pursued a diverse range of artistic endeavors. Growing up in Paris, the multi-talented Taright enjoyed violin lessons and drawing classes, and studied literature for two years after high school, before focusing on photography and design.
“I couldn’t decide whether it was design or photography,” he says, preferring instead to blur the line between these roles. “Maybe I’m more [an] artistic photographer and art director. I try to bring my artistic experiences to the art direction.” This versatile approach has resonated with clients like Peter Copping at Nina Ricci, with whom Taright is designing an interiors-focused book next year, and Nars Cosmetics.
Taright cut his teeth in art direction at Mario Testino’s London agency, Higher and Higher, working with a wide assortment of clients, including Italian fashion label Etro, cosmetics brand Lancôme and publishing giant Condé Nast. “They felt I had a good personal knowledge of image,” he says of Testino’s team.
While the chemistry worked, Taright left at the start of the year when he landed his most recent role, as art director for Italian menswear label Canali’s advertising campaigns. As for the future? “I would love to be able to shoot the campaign, do the art direction and the layout and the retouching!”
Declan Sheils, Hair Stylist, Bethnal Green
Hairstylist Declan Sheils started his career at salon chain Toni & Guy on an apprenticeship, while still studying for a degree in graphic design. After graduation, the combination of a middling job market and the realisation that he loved working with hair spurred Sheils to join the salon fulltime. “I really just loved doing hair, looking back I don’t think I could do design now, I couldn’t be in an office all day,” says the soft-spoken Dublin native over a coffee at a vegetarian café in his adopted home of East London. Between assisting at fashion runway shows, as well as prepping fashion and beauty editorials for the likes of Nylon, i-D, and L’Uomo Vogue, Sheils doesn’t have a chance to linger long. “I’ve actually been really lucky to be busy. I had maybe five days off last year.”
Although he has ten years of hair experience, Sheils landed his first fashion job only three years ago and has since worked with noted fashion hairstylist Sam McKnight, helping to style hair for the runways of Burberry, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Thierry Mugler and Balmain. His training in art and a naturally crafty disposition have proven to be valuable assets. “I think a lot of people don’t realise, in editorial, how much is fake and how much is actually [the model’s] hair,” he muses. “I do a lot of wig work. With my background in art, I end up making a lot of stuff.”
Sheils is currently working on Shelly Love’s upcoming film The Fallen Circus, starring a troupe of 21 acrobats. For one of them, he has crafted a brunette wig with a bell-shaped gramophone bun, to represent the loudspeaker she uses to corral the other performers. Although his projects are diverse at the moment, Sheils has a specific goal in mind: “What I really love doing is fashion editorials. That’s where I want to be.”
Alex Turvey, Fashion Filmmaker, London Fields
When Alex Turvey moved to London in 2006, few things were further from his mind than directing fashion films, let alone making Anna dello Russo spin on giant golden shoes for hours on end. Yet this is exactly what the self-taught filmmaker has found himself doing in recent months.
Alex Turvey started shooting DIY music videos for friends out of his London Fields flat only a few years ago, managing to create elaborate visual fantasy worlds on shoestring budgets. His trick? The trained graphic designer made all the sets, costumes and props for his highly stylised films himself.
He never planned to cross over into fashion film, but his melancholy, strange aesthetic was too good a fit to go unnoticed. In 2009, Dazed & Confused commissioned ‘Frankenfashion,’ the film that put Turvey on the fashion map. Since that project, the filmmaker has created installations and immersively dark dreamscapes for brands like Levi’s, Nike, Topman and River Island. “I like to create a whole universe,” says the 30-year-old Cornwall-raised multitalent, who until recently produced, art-directed, shot and did the post-production for all of his films.
As for working with the dello Russo, Turvey says, “She is incredibly hard-working and not once complained during the 14-hour shoot. All she asked for was a Kanye West mixtape.” The result, the slightly absurd “Fashion Shower” for the editor’s H&M collaboration, was an instant hit, spawning a YouTube parody (the first of many) within two hours of its release, perhaps the best compliment a video can earn in today’s engage-or-die world.
Yohji Yamamoto and Givenchy have also expressed interest in Turvey’s work, for a fragrance advert and a lipstick commercial, respectively. “I have always wanted to make a major fragrance commercial,” says the young director, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of his heroes Ridley Scott and David Lynch, who are role models in more ways than one: “My dream project is to direct a beautiful, mysterious, epic feature film, a world people can sink into over 90 minutes.” With major brands queuing up to get a piece of his imaginary world, Turvey may just make his dream come true.
Simon Cook, Illustrator & Graphic Designer, Currently in Paris
Simon Cook doesn’t quite know how he went from growing up in a small town by the sea near Brighton to designing prints for Givenchy’s menswear collection. But after studying graphic design at Trent University in Nottingham, one thing led to another and now the fashion world is buzzing about the 25-year-old visual artist. Not long after he started his own studio, Stone and Spear, in 2008, Cook’s style, which applies collage techniques to combine found imagery with sharp graphics and colourful illustration, caught the attention of the London establishment and, in 2010, the Creative Review shortlisted him on their list for new designer of the year.
Cook’s transition into fashion occurred by happenstance. “A friend of a friend was looking for a graphic designer. I sent my CV and got a reply.” Within one week, the young designer had been invited to go to Paris to work on a new project, which turned out to be Riccardo Tisci’s Spring/Summer 2012 men’s collection for Givenchy. Cook moved to Paris in April of 2011 for what was to be a month, and ended up staying for ten months.
It seems that the illustrator’s stint in fashion is turning into a more lasting affair. After Givenchy, another major luxury brand came calling and, at the moment, Cook is busy lending his eye-catching, playful and boldly graphic signature to that legendary French house’s menswear collection.
Matthew Josephs, Stylist, Finsbury Park
At the tender age of thirteen, Matthew Josephs had a fashion epiphany. “I saw John Galliano's Autumn/Winter 2003 collection for Dior, with models wearing Latex leggings with lace-ups, Geisha makeup and giant purple ombré coats. I was like, this is the most amazing thing ever. I loved animé, but this was animé that came to life.”
At that moment, Josephs says he knew he wanted to work in fashion and the precocious teenager went on to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins. “My tutor told me I wouldn't get into to Saint Martins if I applied. If I applied, she said to apply to menswear because it's easier to get in. So I applied to womenswear anyways, and I got in.” But Josephs wasn’t so much interested in creating clothes as in creating powerful, unforgettable looks: “I wanted to make a picture. With styling, you make an image, but the clothes are already there for you.”
Josephs grew up in the North of England loving cartoons and video games, hobbies that no doubt inform his unorthodox approach to mixing fashion. For an interview for an internship with i-D, “I went in wearing shiny Doc Martens, tight jeans, an Ann Demeulemeester vest and a Chanel jacket I had where I cut the back off. I looked ridiculous and had a giant afro.” Naturally, he got the job and soon was shooting alongside Alasdair McLellan, a highly auspicious beginning.
Today, Josephs’ work is increasingly in high demand. He has styled likes of A$AP Rocky and Cillian Murphy for publications like GQ Style (UK), Vogue Hommes Japan and L'Officiel Hommes and consults for some of the leading names of London’s new guard of young designers, including Shaun Samson, Meadham Kirchhoff and Nasir Mazhar.
His aesthetic — post-internet, post-racial, post-gender — manifest in his penchant for dressing racially and sexually ambiguous boys in tight-fitting women’s clothes, has struck a chord in an age where social media reigns supreme and mash-ups are the norm. “I love the internet. I spend a lot of time on Tumblr. I love K-pop and my iPod is literally that and my friend Twigs.”
A big part of Josephs job is research, which often takes the form of being out and about. “You have to know what's going on. And to know that, you have to go out. I go out all the time, at least 4 times a week.” But Josephs’ always-turned-on antennae confirm the old adage that inspiration is everywhere. “I always take the bus and observe the kids who sit in the back and smoke, play music loud and annoy everyone, but they look so cool. It's things like the angle of the hat on their head, or like he's wearing a bandana in a different way.” With the young stylist’s momentum showing no signs of slowing, Joseph is on track to become one of the leading forces of London’s next generation.
Research for this article was contributed by Robert Cordero.